Testosterone has vital roles in both men and women. The main differences are the amount of testosterone that men and women produce and the production site. Men, in general, have 10 to 20 times higher testosterone levels than women.
In men, testosterone is produced in the testes and in small amounts within the adrenal gland. But in women, testosterone is made in the ovaries (most of this is converted to estrogen) and also in the adrenal glands.
Testosterone is called an androgenic hormone because it stimulates the development of male characteristics. Men can find out how to boost testosterone levels naturally here.
What Will Testosterone Do For A Woman?
Testosterone for women plays a role in embryonic development during pregnancy. Specifically, it signals to the cells of the genetically male embryo to develop as a male.
Testosterone also plays a role in normal female physiology, and the small amount produced is crucial to the healthy functioning of most bodily tissues. In women, we know testosterone improves:
- Bone density
- Muscle mass
- Sense of wellbeing
- Self-confidence, motivation and energy
It also has other roles, including stimulating the growth of pubic hair and arm hair, and oil production (sebum in the skin and the hair). Women have testosterone receptors in their nipples, the clitoris, and vagina, so it can also increase sensitivity to sexual stimulation.
Low Testosterone In Women: What Are The Causes?
In younger women, the combined pill can increase Sex Hormone Binding Globulin (SHBG).
Dr Ghazala Aziz-Scott says, “SHBG is like a bus that transports hormones around the body. Once testosterone gets on the bus, it is reluctant to get off. So, if you have high levels of SHBG in your body, this binds to testosterone and the actual amount of free testosterone available to your tissue decreases.
“Some younger women can present with low testosterone, and SHBG can be one of the causes. But in general, testosterone deficiency appears during the perimenopausal and menopausal period. This happens a lot younger than you might think; we notice that many perimenopausal women in their early forties can have low testosterone when measured.”
Testosterone And Menopause
Menopausal women often experience a decline in their testosterone levels; however, the severity of this decline can depend on adrenal health. If adrenal health is good, testosterone levels can be maintained for longer.
Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is a precursor to estrogen, progesterone and testosterone, and is secreted by the adrenal glands. In menopausal women, this provides a reservoir of hormones from the adrenal glands. If DHEA is lower than expected for the age of the woman, then she will often experience increased menopausal symptoms as there is less adrenal production to compensate for the decrease in ovarian production.
In men, decreased DHEA levels can also contribute to andropause symptoms.
Other Causes Of Testosterone Deficiency In Women
There are a number of other causes of low testosterone levels in women. These include:
- Surgical removal of the ovaries (oophorectomy)
- Ovarian failure due to medical treatment
- Loss of period during reproductive age (hypothalamic amenorrhoea) due to stress or extreme weight loss
- Hyperprolactinemia, a condition which causes abnormally high levels of prolactin in the blood
- Adrenal insufficiency
A disorder of the pituitary gland called hypopituitarism can also result in testosterone deficiency. However, this is rare.
What Are The Symptoms Of Low Testosterone In A Woman?
Women with a testosterone deficiency may experience a number of symptoms that cross over with other conditions, including other hormone deficiencies. These symptoms include:
- Decreased sense of wellbeing
- Loss of energy
- Reduced sexual libido
- Joint aches and pains
- Weight gain
- Loss of muscle tone and mass
To find out if your symptoms are caused by a testosterone deficiency, it’s important to undergo a blood test in order to establish your hormone profile. Your consultant will then be able to analyse the results and provide you with a treatment plan.
How Can A Woman Increase Testosterone Levels?
The best treatment plan for testosterone deficiency combines methods of hormone balancing, including testosterone replacement therapy and positive lifestyle changes.
Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT)
This therapy replaces depleted levels of testosterone for women using bioidentical testosterone, which is identical to testosterone produced in your body.
Generally, most testosterone products are aimed towards male consumers, and therefore will likely contain amounts of testosterone that are too high for women. However, with bioidentical testosterone, we can tailor the amount required according to your hormone profile, and offer a range of delivery methods including injections, transdermal patches, lozenges and topical creams.
During TRT, your hormones will be closely monitored, and your consultant will ensure any reactions to the treatment – negative or positive – are noted and your treatment tailored accordingly, if necessary.
Every patient is unique, and there are no ‘standard’ measurements for the changes that can be made in one’s lifestyle in order to promote testosterone production. However, any positive changes that you can make towards achieving a healthier lifestyle can, in turn, contribute to better hormone health. Here are some areas which we recommend improving upon:
- Stress – increased cortisol levels as a result of high or prolonged periods of stress can inhibit testosterone production, so it is important to reduce stress where possible.
- Diet – taking steps to reduce consumption of refined sugars, simple carbohydrates and processed foods, and focusing on a low glycaemic index (low GI) diet, can help to decrease insulin levels and encourage weight loss, which will help to increase testosterone naturally.
- Exercise routine – walking regularly, taking part in classes such as yoga and pilates, and going to the gym are all examples of healthy fitness habits that you can introduce into your routine. In addition, at The Marion Gluck Clinic, we advise all menopausal women to regularly engage in some form of weight training as it helps to relieve symptoms, maintain muscle tone, and naturally boost testosterone levels.
- Sleep – your body needs an appropriate amount of sleep in order to properly detox hormones and reduce inflammatory markers. Improve your sleep hygiene by implementing a calming pre-sleep routine, such as putting your phone away an hour before bedtime, listening to relaxing music, and ensuring that your pillow is the correct thickness to support your neck and head.
Book An Appointment With A Hormone Specialist
If you suspect that you may have low testosterone, book an appointment with one of our expert hormone specialists at The Marion Gluck Clinic. You will then be able to undergo the appropriate investigations to diagnose and treat your hormonal issues, and get back on track to feeling like the best version of yourself.